Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hanging on the telephone

I hate people who hang up. I don't want to call you and upset you; I don't want to confuse you or worry you with my scripted questions about your banking habits; I don't want you to be afraid. But if you hang up without saying "no thanks I don't do surveys", you're being unforgivabley fucking rude. You are slapping me in the face, fo doing the only job that will take me. You are ruining my day. You are being a total wanker arsehole, and I can't even swear at you, because I'm being recorded, and I'll get fired. Not only that, but if you don't tell me not to phone back, we'll keep on trying!

And you know what? The Data Protection Act actually does mean that I can't tell you which bank I'm phoning from if you're not the named fucking recipient. It actually protects the privacy of the person involved. You saying "well due to the Data Protection Act I can't tell you where they are" is not, in fact, anything to do with the Data Protection Act, it's just you being a dick. The Act only applies to companies, not individuals. You're allowed to say "sorry I don't feel comfortable telling you that if you're not going to tell me who you're phoning on behalf of", that's fine, I understand that. There is very litle I can do to reassure you, after all. But if you're being abusive - which is essentiually what you're doing, abusing me - down the phone to a total stranger who is not, in all likelihood, doing the job because they want to, but because they have to, then you're acting immorally. I cannot respond to you without risking my job. You are hurting me. That is abuse.

If anyone ever reads this, please, please act like a human being when you next get an unwanted phone call. You can be firm, you can interrupt, but don't be rude, don't just hang up, and don't ever forget that there is another human being on the end of the line who doesn't deserve (necessarily) to take the brunt of your pissy  mood.

Monday, 3 January 2011

On tragic heroes

SPOILERS: I'm sure everyone knows the story of Star Wars, but some people have still not read Harry Potter and intend to. Do not read this if you want no spoilers. Although really, the books have been published for years now, if you haven't got round to it yet the onus is on you to avoid finding anything out.

After playing a lot of Lego Harry Potter, I reread all seven books in a week, which in retrospect might have been too short a time. They hold up much better as a series than I remembered, and although not in any way without flaw, JK at least manages a consistent and coherent character development for her leads - I was particularly impressed with the teenage rage showed by Harry and later referenced and overcome (5 and 6 respectively I think).

In conversation some weeks after said marathon (still playing the damn game) I realised that Harry, much like Luke Skywalker, is not the true hero of his saga, at least by certain definitions of the word. In Star Wars one can reasonably view the saga (glossing over the actual events portrayed by the Unholy Trilogy, Eps 1-3, but sticking with the themes presented) as the tragic fall from grace and ultimate redemption of the hero Anakin Skywalker. Everything with his son is merely a means by which he is redeemed. As a narrative device this was used by the Greeks in their myths and stories, which SW heavily draws on.

With HP, there is a similar hero, who turns to the Dark Side - er, I mean, becomes a Death Eater, yeah - before repenting and ultimately dying to save the world. Now I'm no Snape fangirl, Lupin and Bill held my affections much more, but for me his is the most compelling story. Before Harry's arrival at school, his plot hooks are:
  • Turns to the Dark Side when the woman he has loved since he was a child falls in love with his worst tomenter and bully. A classic trope of love denied and vengeance sought.
  •  Repents when he discovers the information he gave his master will be used to kill her and her infant son. This repentance is one of very few follow-ups to the above; the only other options would be to honourably kill oneself, which isn't that common in (modern) Western mythology; to slay the Dark Lord in question, or to attempt to (dying in the attempt probably counts as honourable suicide, really); or to go along with it and become as terrible a figure as one's master.
  • Spends ten years living in secrecy, manipulated by his new master, despised by everyone who knows that he was a Death Eater, wallowing in self-hatred and terrified that his worst fears will come to pass: that the Dark Lord will return. This is non-standard for the tragic hero.
From here on in, Snape becomes an archetypal figure of doubtful loyalty before proving it the usual way, honourable death. I am of the opinion that this archetype is not the whole of the personality. The love lost, and his intense and gnarly relationship with the boy who is the son he might have had, incline me to thinking tragic hero - possibly tragic anti-hero would be a better descriptor, it's hard to like the man - is his true narrative persona. Specifically, his transference of his dying memories to Harry; a redemption that thorough would not have been necessary for the double agent he is otherwise presented as. The tragic hero deserves better though. His sacrifice is honoured (Harry names his second son after him) and his death is genuinely tragic, staring into the eyes of the women he loved set in the face of the man he hated. (Overblown and gothy, yes, but still tragic.)

Anakin, bless his emo heart, can't hold a proper candle to this much more quiet tale of love and loss, hatred and betrayal and redemption. Worryingly enough, JK Rowling appears to be the more subtle of the two creators; she convolutes and complicates her archetypes, adding genuine adolescent emotion to the mix; whereas Lucas deals in stereotypes mainly, with a few characters dragging themselevs up to archetypes only through the quality of their acting. Poor Mark Hamill the ever-tainted never had a chance with Luke; Ford does a little better with Solo, and Obi-Wan played by Guinness and McGregor is probably the best and most complicated of them all, if indelibly tarnished by the sheer magnitude of awfulness that were the prequels and the dubious "plot" which played out in them.

RIP Severus. You won it for me, at least.